How Businesses can Inspire and Support Their Female Workforce and Community Members: Q&A with Jo Deal for International Women’s Day
Although International Women's Day is celebrated on March 8th every year, organizations should make it a point to celebrate the great women in their businesses year-round. Start looking for opportunities to empower and support your fearless female employees and leaders through various activities and resources, and promote gender equality not only in your workplace, but in your communities.
I had the opportunity to sit down with LogMeIn’s Jo Deal, Chief Human Resources Officer, to discuss what International Women’s Day means to her, what LogMeIn is doing to support women and promote diversity in the workplace, and how they celebrated women of all ages and backgrounds this past week.
What can we do within the walls of our companies to affect change at every level?
One of the easiest ways to begin igniting change is by getting to know other people at a company. Not just from the perspective of getting work done (knowing a name and what department they work in) but through a connection or understanding of who they are, both inside and outside of work. We often come to the table with preconceived notions on who we think people are, based on what they do or where they come from. As we breakdown those biases, we are better able to connect and find common ground, which leads to more trust and success from better collaboration.
One of the ways we do that at LogMeIn is by highlighting individuals throughout the company through panels, internal spotlights, or recognition in all-hands. These opportunities allow us to not only showcase what people are working on, but also show who they are and what passions they have. When I joined LogMeIn, our CEO sent a note out to the company welcoming me to the team, and in addition to listing my experience, the CEO also mentioned that my favorite football (soccer) team was Crystal Palace. Within every office I visit around the world, there are always one or two fans of the English premier league who come and commiserate with me on how Palace has been doing. That one small thing has created so many new connections for me — many of whom I may not have crossed paths with otherwise.
Change can come through a groundswell of movement but can also happen one person at a time; making connections with others one at a time can build over time and deliver similar momentum.
Are there internal groups or programs that businesses can initiate to further this change and specifically support women?
Of course! Whether it’s a full-blown volunteer program or something as simple as a Slack or Chatter channel created by a small group with a common interest (which can evolve and grow), there is so much that companies can be doing. Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) are another great way of bringing people together who have common goals. At LogMeIn, one of our first ERGs was formed by a group of amazing women who wanted to share insights and experiences, and provide support to one another; they called it LogHerIn.
LogHerIn is a voluntary, employee-led group that connects employees around shared initiatives and helps amplify our culture of diversity. It has grown from the initial founding group in Boston to have sub chapters in our offices all over the world. You can often find the group engaged in topical dialogue in our Slack channels, out in the community recruiting, or planning great events at our office locations. Ultimately, the group helps to amplify the voice of the women at LogMeIn, while engaging with the community and supporting each other’s growth.
Most of these types of programs don’t require a lot from a company other than some support getting it off the ground, and perhaps providing a channel to promote it. However, the power that can come from these forums can have a huge impact.
And don’t forget that we can all make a difference outside of work as well. Whether you’re a parent, mentor, aunt or uncle, or friend, you can use your current relationships to support, educate and build confidence in others — regardless of whether your company has a formal volunteering program or partners with female groups or not. Role modeling the right behavior to boys is equally key to achieving the right behavior from future generations. When women are truly supported inside and outside of work, they can pursue their dreams and ambitions with confidence.
How can businesses support women through their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) efforts?
Public and private companies alike have the opportunity to make a difference and lift up the women within their own organizations and in their communities. Through CSR — especially in the tech space — there is tremendous opportunity to close the diversity gap through innovative programs via non-profit partners. At LogMeIn, we’ve teamed up with partners like CoderDojo and Girls Who Code to host events empowering women.
One recent event was our Summer Field Trip with Girls Who Code. At this event, we invited teenage girls to learn about careers in tech, artificial intelligence (AI), the customer experience, and to create their own chat products. I do believe that companies have a responsibility to educate and support young women about career opportunities in fields they are less aware of, or interested in. There is a shortage of diversity in many of the STEM fields, and by reaching out to younger diverse populations, showcasing role models, and providing education around what a career in a field like AI looks like, we can spark that interest early. That will then allow someone to plan their high school and college education with a new end goal in mind.
Companies large and small can start off by finding partners such as Girls Who Code in their local communities, hosting events and encouraging their employees (men and women) to help plan the events, and ideally presenting or teaching to those in attendance. Even small events can make a world of change, and it’s really important that both men and women participate. As our ultimate goal is inclusion, we shouldn’t forget that men are fathers and brothers and friends and want to see opportunities for their daughters and sisters and friends. We always have great attendance from all genders at our CSR and LogHerIn events, and I’ll never forget one male employee reaching out to the LogHerIn group and asking for more advice to make sure he was the best role model and father he could be to his daughter in supporting her confidence and her career choices.
What International Women’s Day activities did LogMeIn host this year?
Mission Possible, LogMeIn’s CSR program, organized several volunteer days within our communities to celebrate and lift women up during Women’s History Month. This week in Boston we volunteered at Rosie’s Place, a women’s shelter providing meals and shelter to women. In Raleigh, North Carolina, employees volunteered their time at the Wake County Women’s Shelter Food Bank. Later this month, our Karlsruhe, Germany office will lead a girl’s STEM event which will tap into that office’s subject matter expertise and provide young girls in the community with the opportunity to learn about coding and engineering. We were also proud sponsors of the Girl Scouts’ Leading Women Awards in Boston, an event celebrating fearless females.
Yesterday we also hosted a panel with many of our female leaders across the business. Each year we focus on a topic or theme, and in 2019 our theme was Advancing Confidently in your career — which aligns with one of our company’s core values. This panel was broadcast out to many of our global offices using our amazing GoTo products and really highlights the global connectivity of LogMeIn. I had the opportunity to listen in from our Karlsruhe office in Germany with a local group there and afterwards we hosted a small social event to network.
In case you missed it and want to learn more about LogMeIn and hear from some of our amazing female leaders, you can listen to the recorded webinar here!
Why is it important for you to not only support women within your organization, but women of all ages outside the walls of LogMeIn?
As women and men, we have countless opportunities to support women everywhere. Whether we give that support inside the walls of our business, at a girls coding club, or at a community women’s shelter, it’s all a step in the right direction. Look at the resources and talent you have within your company and then look for opportunities to use that for good. Sometimes it only takes a minute to do something that will help another woman; it could seem like a small thing for you but could make a huge difference for them.
Plus, it just makes good business sense. If companies aren’t supporting women and minorities within their own walls and out, they’re stunting their growth. There are plenty of studies linking diversity to better business results, so use that as your motivation if you prefer. I have been reading a lot about “group think” recently based on some research from the NeuroLeadership Institute. It is mind blowing to realize some of the mistakes that companies and governments have made: from having everyone in a room of the same background, educational pedigree, and exact same way of thinking. We need diverse thinking around every table, for every big decision.
And providing support to women buoys up every department, injects more ideas and helps us see things from more angles and of course, acting now helps set us up for strong female team members and leaders in the future. We should constantly be looking for opportunities to provide training, assistance, and support and be persistent in the goal of equality for all minority groups.
There is a great quote by Maya Yousafzai: “I raise up my voice – not so I can shout, but so that those without a voice can be heard.” I think almost all of us can point to a moment where someone raised their voice on our behalf, helped us out with a kind word or a piece of advice and I really believe it is incumbent on all of us to pass that on to future generations.
This is the reason why we band together: to help women (and to help all people) find their voices and be the best versions of themselves they can be.